Teacher on leave following misconduct allegation

A Marcus Whitman Junior High School math teacher will spend the remainder of the school year on leave following an investigation into an allegation of misconduct during September.

In an agreement reached with the South Kitsap School District earlier this month, the teacher — who has taught in the district for nearly 20 years — is on paid sick leave until June 30, 2004, when his retirement from the district becomes effective.

According to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, a student filed a complaint with the Port Orchard Police Department in September accusing the teacher of inappropriate touching. The complaint was forwarded to the sheriff’s office, who conducted an investigation and forwarded its findings to the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office.

No criminal charges have been filed to date.

Assistant Superintendent for Personnel and Labor Relations Greg Roberts said the school district conducted a thorough investigation into the allegation as well.

“We were not able to independently confirm the accusations,” Roberts said, explaining that the teacher was put on administrative leave while the district investigated the charges.

At least one of the teacher’s former students, however, believes the accusations are fact, because the same thing happened to her 20 years ago. Michelle Hall, a Marcus Whitman student in 1984-85, claims she and classmate Tonya Martinez-Eberhart were alone with the teacher after class when he fondled her.

Immediately afterward, the two girls ran to the school office and reported the incident to several staff members, including the assistant principal at the time, Hall said.

Both women said they did not tell their parents or report the incident to local law enforcement.

“Nothing ever happened, and we were both back in his class the next day,” Hall said, explaining that following the incident she lost all interest in school, earning mostly “Ds” and “Fs” and eventually flunked out of high school.

She is currently married and has five children she homeschools, she said.

“I’ll never have my children in any school district,” she said.

Hall said she learned of the most recent accusation against the teacher because Martinez-Eberhart’s daughter was enrolled in one of his math classes this year.

“She told me she had a substitute teacher and that her main teacher was gone because he had sexually assaulted someone,” Martinez-Eberhart said. Once her daughter told her the teacher’s name, she said she instantly recognized it and called Hall.

Both women contacted the school district and shared their stories of what happened 18 years ago.

“I’m so frustrated. I can’t believe this is happening,” Hall said. “I want the girl to know it happened to someone else, and I want the family to know. I feel so bad for the other girl, and I know she’s being told the same thing as me — ‘Sorry, hon, we can’t prove anything, we can’t do anything about it.’ ”

Roberts said he took statements from both of the women and interviewed several district employees who were working at the junior high at the time.

“No one could recall the incident, and there was no record of any complaint filed,” Roberts said. “When the South Kitsap School District receives a complaint about an employee, we do a thorough investigation to protect the safety of students and to insure the employee is treated fairly under the state law. If during an investigation we conclude that an employee has violated district policy, state law, or good work practices, a letter or record of discipline is placed in the employee’s personnel file describing the misconduct and the disciplinary action to be taken.”

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